A few years after college, I met up with a friend who had been in the Bible program with me. He was a natural at connecting with people, and seeing him minister to a room of high school students made me realize a) Why I was so bad at it and b) I really should not go into youth ministry.
THAT was a life saver.
However, there was another side to him that was always a little restless, perhaps unsettled. I can’t quite put my finger on it, and I honestly only noticed it in retrospect when we caught up. By that time he’d found a church that had been really good for him.
The words that came up over and over again in our conversation were “grace” and “sound doctrine.”
Mind you, a Baptist like me found this different because I would talk about preaching the cross and teaching “The Word.” I still get a little twitchy these days when people use “The Word” to describe the Bible, but I’ll spare you my Barthian rabbit trail. Let’s get back to my friend…
I later learned that his church was Calvinist or Reformed.
This surprised me. For him, a church informed by Calvinism brought him tremendous peace of mind—possibly because he really understood the saving and preserving grace of God in his life for the first time. The absence of his restlessness was jarring. For me, everything that troubled me about Christianity in seminary always seemed to come from the books by the Calvinists.
I’ve run into this over and over again: Some folks find true comfort in the teachings on God’s grace that you’ll find among Calvinists. For a guy like me who finds way more peace in the Arminian end of things, it’s good to be reminded that even if I believe that we need to make a choice, the power and the credit and everything else really does come from God.
As I’ve personally backed away from Calvinism and seen its impact on my life, I don’t think Calvinism is necessarily the problem. Mind you, a doctrine such as predestination can be a real brain bender. That we aren’t quite sure how it works should be a given. That we sometimes misunderstand the mysterious workings of God is a no brainer.
Calvinism has some complex doctrines that are easy to misapply to our lives. Heck, I witnessed Reformed theologians arguing about how the central teachings of their theological school play out in every day life.
Whichever theological camp feels right to you, I hope you can join me in the coming weeks as I look at the sovereignty of God and the way it plays out in everyday life. This is something for all of us to consider. For many, like myself, we have struggled to understand what exactly to do with Calvinism and how to apply it to our lives.
Calvinism is not the problem here. For many, it has been a source of hope and healing. In my own case, it has left me confused about the ways God interacts with us and the decisions we make.
However, you don’t have to mingle with Calvinism in order to be confused about the role of God in our lives. In the coming days I may discuss the impact of Calvinism on my way of thinking, but I hope I never make it sound like I’m “against” Calvinism. The mysterious role of God in our lives is something for all of us to ponder and pray about.
Perhaps God did predestine all of us to be a little confused.